Thursday, May 05, 2005

Leo Tolst-who?

The sad state of the new SATs:

Dr. Perelman contacted the College Board and was surprised to learn that on the new SAT essay, students are not penalized for incorrect facts. The official guide for scorers explains: "Writers may make errors in facts or information that do not affect the quality of their essays. For example, a writer may state 'The American Revolution began in 1842' or ' "Anna Karenina," a play by the French author Joseph Conrad, was a very upbeat literary work.' " (Actually, that's 1775; a novel by the Russian Leo Tolstoy; and poor Anna hurls herself under a train.) No matter. "You are scoring the writing, and not the correctness of facts."

How to prepare for such an essay? "I would advise writing as long as possible," said Dr. Perelman, "and include lots of facts, even if they're made up." This, of course, is not what he teaches his M.I.T. students. "It's exactly what we don't want to teach our kids," he said.

I always thought it was pretty stupid to put an essay portion on the SAT in the first place (the article implies that the move was made to placate California, which threatened to stop using the SAT if it didn't incorporate a section in which you don't have to fill in bubbles). This report just confirmed my worst fears.


Blogger The Tiger said...

The trouble with the new SAT I is this: it is trying to morph itself into an achievement test, rather than an aptitude test. The whole point of it was to show us the brilliant students at not-so-brilliant schools. It has done well with that.

Given that we already had achievement tests (the SAT IIs, which did have a writing test as well), this new SAT I seems redundant and pointless. But what the heck -- people feel better about it, and it keeps kids in the test centres for an hour longer on their Saturday mornings. Job well done.

12:43 PM  

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